On Thursday, Arianna Huffington announced that she will leave the Huffington Post to devote her attention to a new company. “I thought HuffPost would be my last act,” wrote Huffington on Twitter. “But I’ve decided to step down as HuffPost’s editor-in-chief to run my new venture, Thrive Global.”
What is Thrive Global? See if you can guess by reading a few quotes from rich people who have invested in the company, as reported by a Thrive Global press release:
Arianna has always been at the forefront of the Zeitgeist, understanding and creating new culture. She will do it again with Thrive, addressing a deep need of our modern societies.
Hmm. What is this “deep need” that Huffington is setting out to fulfill? Universal wifi? Longer-living cellphone batteries? A more comprehensive emoji alphabet?
The woman who changed the way we consume media is now changing the way we work and live.
Oh god. Are we all going to have to work and live without pay now, for the sake of exposure?
There is no one more qualified and committed than her to help address an issue that increasingly stands in the way of sustainable well-being, high productivity and rewarding relationships.
Which “issue”? Pokémon Go? Instagram? Mansplaining?
The official explanation of Thrive Global is only slightly less vague than these borderline cultish quotes imply: “Thrive Global is a corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform,” the press release clarifies. “It provides trainings, seminars, e-courses, coaching, and ongoing support based on the latest scientific findings from experts in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, productivity, sports, and sleep.” Oh. A workplace wellness company. OK.
If you’ve followed Huffington over the past few years, Thrive Global’s mission won’t come as a surprise for you. Huffington has made wellness her mantra in recent books like The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time and, before that, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. (The first two metrics are power and money; the third is wellness.) The media mogul famously realized she needed to focus more on her health after she collapsed from exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone, in 2007. She started sleeping more, incorporated meditation into her day, stopped checking her phone so much—and soon began telling the rest of America why we should follow suit.
Thrive Global’s stated goal, “reducing stress and exhaustion,” is a worthy one. But Huffington’s version of wellness has always emphasized the business benefits of health as much as the intrinsic benefits of health. Thriving, as Huffington defines it, “isn’t about challenging the capitalist system that’s worked you to the bone, but rather learning how to be a more holistically integrated cog in the machine,” as my former colleague Amanda Hess wrote after attending a “Third Metric Live Event” hosted by Huffington in 2014. Thrive Global’s press release sends the same message, albeit with more C-suite-friendly language. “Stress and burnout are a global pandemic, costing businesses hundreds of billions of dollars per year—$300 billion in the U.S. alone,” reads the press release, with the clear implication that businesses can recoup some of those lost profits by partnering with Huffington’s new company. “But as the latest science has shown there is no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance.”
And if living your version of a happy, healthy, well-balanced life doesn’t result in high performance at work? We’ll just have to wait and see whether Thrive Global and its clients care more about your well-being or about the bottom line.